On March 11, at 2:46 pm, the country of Japan suffered a horrific tragedy. An 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit off the Northeast coast of Japan, causing a catastrophic tsunami and crippling the city of Tokyo and northward. It is estimated the initial tsunami wave was over 30 feet high, and came over six miles into shore. Over 120 strong aftershocks have occurred and it is expected that will continue for days and possibly months. A nuclear power plant North of Tokyo is in a state of emergency with at least two of the reactors being completely unstable. There has been almost 1,000 people declared dead, with the numbers climbing by the hour. In one city alone, there are over 9,500 people reported missing. Towns have been completely taken off the map. This has been declared the worst natural disaster in Japan history, and Japan's most difficult crisis since WWII.
There are no words to express how much all the email and Facebook messages, instant messages, and phone calls asking about our safety, have meant to my family. I know many of you have asked where we are in relation to the disaster zone. My family and I live in Kobe, Japan, which is Southwest from the disaster area. We are 267 miles from Tokyo and 402 miles from Sendai. Sendai is the closest city to where the epicenter of the earthquake was located. I know those miles do not seem very far, especially to those in the United States. Our distance in miles would be similar to driving from Cleveland, Ohio to Cincinnati, Ohio. However, Japan is very mountainous, making distance almost two and three times farther.
We did feel the earthquake where we live. It could be described as feeling like you had just gotten off a boat. The initial quake lasted several minutes. Matt was at work and the kids were at school. The kids' school was very proactive and implemented their "duck and cover" earthquake plan. I was at home and you couldn't feel it as much here as elsewhere because of our location tucked towards the mountain. We have several friends who live in a 32-floor high-rise apartment building, where you would physically see the building swaying back and forth.
Kobe has been able to feel several of the aftershocks. Our house is located 1/2 way up the mountain, cushioning the aftershocks. Our friends who live in the high-rise buildings have had a few rough moments riding out some of the most recent quakes. We have been told rolling blackouts may be implemented throughout the large cities to help conserve power and to reroute power to the North to help aid in the search and rescue efforts. We are making sure we have all our cell phones charged in case this happens, as most likely the Kobe area will be part of this plan. We are monitoring the nuclear power plant issue, however being located almost 300 miles from the plant, our biggest worry would be the wind direction. I am the outreach ministry leader at our church and one of our mission partners have suffered much damage, so we are working to get a team together to help in the recovery efforts when the time is right.
Caterpillar, my husband's company, has been in constant contact over the past day, giving us updates when appropriate. The U.S. Embassy has also been giving us information and keeping us updated on the latest news. We are being watched even if we are not in the disaster zone. So mom and dad, PLEASE do not worry. We are being watched.
I have an earthquake application on my iPhone. As soon as I saw the initial 7.9 magnitude report I turned on the television to see if there was any news. I sat in front of the television for hours watching everything unfold. It is so surreal sitting here knowing the horrible images we are all seeing is happening where I live. While Japan is not my home country, and we have only live here a little over two years, Japan has become my home. It is no secret how much I love living here. I have fallen in love with the people, the culture, the country, and my heart aches watching all of this unfold.
I feel guilty for going on with our day-to-day lives, while so many are suffering. I feel like I should be doing something. I try not to think of the "what ifs". I try not to think about living in one of the world's most earthquake prone countries. I tell myself it won't happen here. But it could. It did 16 years ago. I try not to think about my husband, my son, seven other adult chaperones, and almost 60 6th graders sitting in the Sendai airport exactly three weeks before this earthquake and tsunami. This is what the Sendai airport looked like shortly after the tsunami hit.
I cannot close my eyes without seeing all the devastation. I doubt many people in this country have slept much the past few days. The next few days will be full of more heartbreaking images and devastation. I just have to keep reminding myself of Philippians 4:6. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
So I ask you, please pray for this country. Please pray for the people who are located in the North. Pray for those who are helping in the search and rescue efforts. Pray for those who are battling the scary issues at the nuclear power plant. Pray for those who have lost loved ones, their homes, their jobs, their towns. Pray for the leadership of this country. Please pray for the foreigners who don't know how to handle a disaster such as this one. Please pray for Japan.